Real Pregnancy Talk: Clueless

Let’s talk about those people who are utterly clueless about what it means to be pregnant.

WARNING: Angry blog post ahead…

I’ve had a few people (both men and women) say to me since I became pregnant in January that they totally understand and sympathize with what it’s like to be pregnant, even though they’ve never been themselves. I’m here to say to these people once and for all that, No, you don’t.

Pregnancy is not only an extremely emotional and mental journey (as I’ve talked about at length in other “Real Pregnancy Talk” posts), it is also a very physical experience. When it became clear that my anxiety was a lot more severe than expected in my first trimester, my doctors all recommended vehemently to me that I practice going to the gym on a regular basis as it would help my mind to calm down. But, just because I am trying my best to go to the gym as frequently as possible, doesn’t mean that I am feeling peachy keen all the time. There have been significant changes to my physical body since I became pregnant, and now that I am 32 weeks along and nearing the end of my journey, my baby is only getting larger and larger and more, let’s be honest, uncomfortable to carry. This is something that I am confident no person can even come close to understanding unless they have been pregnant themself. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my body is no longer just my own, and that’s the truth of it – I am sharing my body with another human, and he’s not always that considerate of how I might be feeling. He kicks my ribs and lungs, often taking my breath away; he punches my bladder which, as you can imagine, can have some serious consequences when I’m out in public; and he is apparently hungry constantly because I definitely am.

Moreover, he’s messing with my hormones in ways that are ten times more intense than anything I ever experienced as a woman prior to becoming pregnant (yes, even during that pesky time of the month!). I’ve never had heartburn in my life until I became pregnant, but now it’s a nightly occurrence and has been since the end of my first trimester. I have a weak back to begin with, but the pressure is getting to the point now where a single step can unexpectedly have me cringing and clutching myself in agony. There was the time I almost fainted on the subway (like, literally, I was seeing spots and thought I was going to face plant right in front of the early morning commuters) and then found out from my doctor that my iron level was really low because, naturally, every single thing I consume is being shared with my precious nugget. And, let’s just say it how it is, none of this is very comfortable or enjoyable to go through.

Despite how plainly traumatic being pregnant is on a female’s body, like I said, there are still those people out there who think they know what it’s like to be pregnant without having been. Sure, maybe these people can empathize with what it’s like and try to put themselves in a pregnant woman’s position, but that will only get them so far and I’m sorry, but it’s not at all the same. Until you’ve held a baby inside of you, you don’t know anything, and it’s just naïve and ignorant to pretend that you do.

Now, why would I feel compelled to rant like a dragon about this today? Well, it has to do with something that happened to me on the weekend. I was heading downtown with my mother on the subway, and it was a Saturday evening, so the subway was pretty busy. It wasn’t packed by any means though, and my mom and I entered the train easily and stood right in front of a cluster of five seats. On these seats sat two middle-aged women, two young women, and a middle-aged man. Do you think that any of these five individuals got up to offer me, the only pregnant woman in the vicinity, a seat? Nope, not a single one. I do like to believe that, with my fitness level being what it was before I got pregnant, I actually needed a seat less than some of these people…but that’s not really the point. The point is that it is simply disrespectful and insulting not to at least offer a seat to a pregnant woman (or to a person who clearly needs a seat for any other reason) when on the subway. I didn’t say anything and I urged my mom not to because I didn’t want to cause an altercation, but this got me really fired up. People need to get their heads out of their a$$es sometimes, apparently.

All this to say that, you might think you know how hard it is to be pregnant, but unless you’ve been a pregnant woman at one point in your life, you have no clue. So, if a pregnant woman is standing near you on a crowded subway car or bus, just offer her a damn seat and be a decent human being, because one day you might actually be in her position and you and your sore back are going to be hoping you have good karma when that day arrives. Trust me on this one!

Rant concluded, thank you for attending my Ted Talk. 😉

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

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End of July Round-Up ~ #JNGReads

Happy almost-Friday everyone!

A long weekend is coming up here in Toronto, which means lots of time to spend outside, hopefully blazing through a few books I have on loan from the library.

I was originally holding onto the following reviews to post when I had a few more ready because I’ve actually finished another two books in the days since reading these ones. However, those two books are both part of the Beautiful series, and when I saw that I could borrow all but one of the remaining books in the series that I haven’t yet read from my library last night, I decided it would be a better idea to post all of my short reviews of the Beautiful books in one mega-post.

So, for that reason, I’m offering two reviews here of books that I finished at the end of July and enjoyed well enough. If you’re looking for a relatively entertaining chick lit. to take to the beach with you or a fantasy novel to distract you on these hot days, these just might be the ticket!

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke

I don’t quite know how to feel about Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke. I was originally very intrigued by the novel when I came across it at my local bookstore, and I instantly requested an e-book version of it from my library. The synopsis seemed perfectly sweet and romantic, the ideal summer read, and I felt that I would surely enjoy it because of its allusions to Shakespeare and one of my favourite concepts, Fate. I also am a fan of reading my horoscope, although I don’t do so religiously, and I thought the plot of someone altering horoscopes to send a particular message sounded fun and unique.

However, the novel turned out not to be what I was expecting whatsoever. For one thing, it was written in a much more lofty style than is customary for romance novels of this variety, and while I think that can sometimes be a very good thing and there is no reason why a novel has to bend to the clichés of a specific genre, Darke’s writing was a bit too flowery for my liking (this coming from someone who is notoriously verbose) and the whole book read, in many ways, like a horoscope entry with its mystical language. I also found myself thinking, only about 200 pages into the novel, that it was altogether too long. It lacked a bit of direction in my opinion because, rather than focusing exclusively on the main characters Nick and Justine and building chemistry between them, it flitted around to different minor characters and examined how they were affected by the horoscopes Justine constructed. This, again, was a good idea in theory, but in execution I found it made the story harder to follow, as it seemed to jump around a bit haphazardly and was then wrapped up too quickly and neatly. I do have to say that I thought it was cute how Darke chose to write some sections from the perspective of a dog named Brown Houdini-Malarky, but then, at the same time, I also found this incredibly strange and a bit out of place. I felt the same way about one section written from Heaven, which again seemed to bring in the concept of religion in a way that was unnecessary and didn’t fully align with the focus on astrology.

More than anything, I found it hard to like Star-Crossed because I really didn’t like Justine or Nick. Nick, I was totally indifferent towards because he’s an utterly bland character who doesn’t really have much of a personality at all and seems not to have any agency over his life or any decision-making power. Justine was, however, extremely annoying to me because she did make many decisions throughout the novel, but she always seemed to be making the stupidest ones imaginable. And I don’t just mean altering the horoscopes of the magazine she works for, which is obviously unethical; I mean all of the other decisions she makes, even after she is caught and given another chance not to do anything unprofessional again. She is also a bit full of herself, if you ask me, because she goes around correcting signs and menus that have spelling errors, and she comes across as very pretentious. I just found it really difficult to relate to her and I almost didn’t want her to come out on top at the end of the novel because I didn’t feel she deserved it. She sort of bothered me as a character and is not someone I would ever root for romantically, which is a major problem in this sort of novel, if you ask me.

Overall, I wanted more from Star-Crossed and I found myself slogging through it toward the end, just wanting to be done. It wasn’t terrible, but it isn’t the first book I would recommend if a friend asked me for an entertaining read to take with her to the beach, as there are many other books of this genre that I feel are executed much better.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I really enjoyed An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, and will absolutely be reading the next installments in this fantasy series!

This is a fast-paced, engaging and thoroughly entertaining read, that doesn’t feel heavy in any parts. When I had the chance to pick it up, I felt like I raced through the pages rapidly, and the alternating perspective (from Laia’s narrative to Elias’) was very easy and exciting to read. There weren’t any real lulls in the story, and I turned the pages a lot faster than I have when reading other novels in the last little while. That being said, when I was away from the book, I found myself thinking about what had happened in the plot and realizing that not very much had actually occurred. It was almost as if, every time I sat down to read, I got no further into the plot even if I was pages and pages ahead of the last time I read. This could be down to the fact that the plot is quite contained, focusing mainly on the Four Trials to determine the new Emperor and Laia’s spy work and pursuit to set her brother free from prison. Although the text is over 400 pages long, the focus is not very vast, and so it feels like not a lot of progress or movement forward is being made. However, as I said, my reading experience was very enjoyable and I got swept up in the story really easily, so I wasn’t too bothered by the fact that there wasn’t much momentum. What it made me think, ultimately, is that this is a very good first book in a larger series, but wouldn’t work as a standalone because it is mostly concerned with setting the stage for events and intrigues to come.

Overall, I was impressed by An Ember in the Ashes and, like I said, I got through it quickly when I was able to find the time to sit down with it. I was fascinated by pretty much all of the characters, from Izzi to Cook to Helene to the Commandant, and I am very interested to see how the rest of the story unfolds over the course of the additional novels.

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: Party of Two

Let’s talk about how it really feels to go from being two to being three.

About a month ago, I learned that my favourite musical (and one of my favourite French stories) of all time, The Phantom of the Opera, will be returning to Toronto in January. I immediately called my husband to tell him that we were getting tickets to celebrate our 6-year dating anniversary, which falls in that month. He was completely on board, even though I’ve seen the play about a million times and he’s getting up there as well, and so we took a look at the available seats and made our selection.

It was then that it dawned on us…January 2020…we would need a babysitter to take care of our baby boy if we wanted to go out for a date night at that time. What a surreal and indescribable feeling, to come to the realization that, beginning this Fall, we can no longer think of just the two of us anymore. We will, for the rest of our lives, always have to be thinking for three.

My husband and I aren’t big partygoers and it’s not like we frequent bars and nightclubs in the city all that often, unless there’s a birthday party or event we’re attending. Having said that, we definitely enjoy being out of the house together, exploring new restaurants downtown and especially going to movies and shows. We’re big fans of walking along the Harbourfront, or buzzing around the Eaton Centre or Yorkdale, and we do get restless if we’re sitting at home for too long on a weekend. We enjoy each other’s company, and I’ve often said that some of my happiest moments with my husband have been waiting in line with him for a ride at The Ex, or sitting on an otherwise tedious streetcar journey headed to an outdoor concert at Budweiser Stage. We try to attend Fan Expo and the One of A Kind Christmas Craft Show every year, and make frequent visits to the Distillery District in the cool winter months. We love being out and about, as long as we’re together, holding hands and exchanging smiles.

One of my biggest fears when we found out I was pregnant was that all of this would change. My husband is my absolute best friend in the world, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately, as the countdown is now on to our baby boy’s arrival, about how being parents will change our relationship. We discussed many times before our wedding that if we were deciding to get married, it meant it would be for life, no matter how hard things might get in the future. We’re hopeless romantics in that way, and we realized very early in our relationship that we’d rather be unhappy together than unhappy apart. Hopefully we’re never at that point where we need to struggle through mutual unhappiness, but considering that my pregnancy journey hasn’t been easy and we’ve had our fair share of ups and downs throughout the years, I do feel confident that as long as we maintain our close friendship, we can get through anything. At the same time, though, I don’t want to have to compromise our youth and excitement for life because we have a baby and will soon be in the role of parents. I want us to continue to be exactly who we are to each other, just with the heightened joy of raising our child together.

I’ll admit, the idea of going from being two to being three has made me melancholy for the last few weeks, especially as the summer heats up and we are pulled in so many directions by so many people, attending so many events every single weekend. My emotions have bogged me down for the last few weeks, and I found myself just wanting a bit of peace and quiet with only my husband and I, and when I expressed these feelings to him, my husband completely understood. So, we’ve decided to try to take a step back now that I’m nearing the end of my pregnancy, and take more time for ourselves. I suggested that we make a list of some of the spots in the city we want to visit and things we want to do before our baby arrives, and we decided that we are going to be honest with ourselves and start saying No to invitations if we’re just feeling stretched too thin. We’re about to experience the biggest change of our lives, one that is utterly permanent, and I feel it’s so important to remember that we are the ones who will be mostly affected by this change…meaning that we have to go as easy on ourselves as possible during this transitional phase.

I also am making a commitment to myself now not to be scared to do things with our baby. As a high strung person to begin with, I can totally see myself wanting to stay home with baby all the time, and maybe being a bit afraid to take him out because of the inconvenience or hassle. But, that is NOT the type of mother I want to be. Yes, of course, I know I’ll need to take it easy, but I also want to take our baby out places and be active with him, especially when I’m on my own during my maternity leave. I want to walk with him to visit my husband or my brother at work and still have lunch dates with my girlfriends. I want to do swimming lessons with him and not be intimidated or embarrassed if he sometimes cries in public. I want him to be a third invitee to all the amazing date nights my husband and I can still have, and when he’s old enough, I want to bring him to my favourite musical so that he can experience the wonder and intrigue I did when I first saw The Phantom of the Opera when I was a young girl.

Rather than looking at becoming parents as a loss, I’m choosing to look at it as gaining another best friend, a little nugget who will be so in awe of the world that my husband and I will get to re-experience all of our favourite places and re-live all of our favourite memories through his little eyes. That is an adventure that I think the three of us will never forget!

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: The Woman’s Work

Let’s talk about how it really feels to be responsible for bringing another human into the world.

Let the biggest juggling act of my life begin!

I am now 30 weeks pregnant, which means that in 10 weeks’ time (or possibly even less), I will be meeting my little baby boy. This is something that it is very difficult to wrap my mind around. I spoke a few weeks ago about the stress and responsibility associated with having another human being inside of me (what can I eat, how should I workout, is everything going okay in there?), and I’ve also alluded to the fact that feeling my baby boy kicking and moving inside my stomach is incredibly surreal and sometimes even a tad scary. But now that my baby’s due date is fast approaching, I’ve started to have moments of overwhelming fear and nerves about what exactly it will mean for him to be here…and about how I will get him here to begin with.

At least several times a day, this feeling almost akin to vertigo comes over me when I think, even briefly, about the fact that I will have to deliver this baby. The idea of going into labour and all the unknowns associated with it is pretty terrifying to me, and although this is something it’s easy to dismiss when you’re only 12 or 20 weeks pregnant, it’s a lot harder to do that as you proceed through your third trimester. The bottom line is that this baby has to come out of my body one way or another and, in just over 2 months, I’m going to have to rely on my body to figure out the best way to bring my baby into the outside world. The fact that my body can actually do that, and that it will supposedly kick into gear and find a way to make that happen (I’ve been assured this will be the case), is utterly mind-boggling to me. As a compulsive planner, I also would love to be able to think ahead and get myself and my body ready for what’s to come, but of course, it is virtually impossible to do that. Even the best laid birth plans can go sideways.

So, I’m trying my best to find ways to, in the words of 4 wise men, “let it be”. I did go through a period of watching birth vlogs obsessively on YouTube, but my husband and parents are convinced that now’s not really the best time to continue doing that, and I have to agree with them. In this particular scenario, it seems that ignorance truly is bliss.

That all being said, if I do somehow manage to curtail these anxieties about labour, my mind then immediately progresses to the next step in my new motherhood journey: breastfeeding my baby. I fully appreciate and sympathize with the fact that many women choose not to breastfeed, and I can completely understand the physical and emotional reasons why someone might opt out of this particular activity. Personally, I’ve given it a lot of thought and talked to my husband and parents extensively, and I do want to breastfeed, with the full realization that it may not be as easy as I hope and with the promise to myself that I will not feel any guilt if I am unable to breastfeed for whatever reason. There are health benefits to breastfeeding, however, and it does establish a beautiful connection between mother and child, so I am committed to doing it for as long as I am able. That doesn’t mean I’m totally confident or relaxed about it, though. First, my body is expected to know how to push my baby out, and then, almost immediately, that same body is expected to provide sustenance for the baby? Like, hooow?!?! How on Earth do women’s bodies know how to do all of this? It is really incredible, most definitely, but it’s also a huge burden and responsibility, and like with most things about pregnancy, it’s something a man just doesn’t have to contemplate. This baby is 50% my husband’s and yet I am 100% responsible for carrying it, delivering it into the world, and (in my own case) feeding it. How does that make any sense? I don’t want to get into a rant about how it’s not really fair because obviously there’s science behind it all and it is what it is, but it just seems like a woman’s job in raising a baby is a lot more involved than a man’s is in a lot of fundamental ways. And that’s totally fine; I wanted to have a baby with my husband and I knew what I would have to undertake to do so. But, at the same time, after hours of labour (I read somewhere that a woman burns around 50,000 calories during labour, just FYI) that will no doubt be exhausting, I’m then expected to feed my baby right away and make sure he has everything he needs to start growing. Obviously my husband will be there for support and cuddles and all that good stuff…but he’s mostly going to be a spectator for the hard bits, don’t you think?

Where am I going with all of this? I truly have no idea. Maybe I just felt like ranting and getting my feelings out, no matter how incoherent. I’m not one for clichés, but honestly, this whole journey has made me acutely aware of how amazing women are. Everything we have to endure and be responsible for…it’s just mind-blowing, and while I’m not really into going on and on about #girlpower, it certainly feels like pregnancy and motherhood are experiences I’m going to have every right to be incredibly proud of for the rest of my life! A bit of pride is the very least I deserve after all this, wouldn’t you agree?

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

What’s In A Name? 🌹

Happy Monday everyone!

I hope you’re all having a fabulous start to the week!

I wanted to come on here to share an exciting baby-related update. I’ve been alluding to the fact in the last few baby posts that my husband and I have had a name for our baby boy picked out for quite some time. The truth is, we came up with this name (as well as one for a baby girl, if it turned out that we were having a girl instead) a few years ago and have had it in our minds ever since as the name we would use for our baby boy. It is a name that seems very fitting to us because it combines both of our interests and is unique, uncommon and interesting in the same way that my name and my husband’s name are. We wanted to choose a name that probably wouldn’t be shared by any of our son’s classmates (fingers crossed!), but we also wanted something timeless that would transition well into his adult life.

So, without further ado, the name we have chosen for our baby boy is…

DORIAN LEE

(You may have already guessed this from the photo at the start of this post, haha!)

Now, why would we be drawn to those two particular names? you may ask. Well, as you all most likely know by this point, I am a huge fan of Victorian literature, so I knew that I wanted my son’s first or middle name to be something inspired by that era. When my husband and I were brainstorming names, I brought up names like Edward (obviously!), and even last names like Thornton or Rochester that I thought we could use as first names if we wanted. But nothing really spoke to us or seemed right, until my husband was glancing at my bookshelves and his eyes alighted onThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. He immediately felt drawn to the name “Dorian”, and while we certainly hope our son won’t be anything at all like Wilde’s devious and pretty evil character, we instantly fell in love with the name and started referring to our (then hypothetical) future son by it. As for the middle name “Lee”, we actually intended to use this middle name for either a boy or a girl because we thought it could fit in both cases. We came up with this middle name well before we landed on “Dorian” and it is inspired by the fact that my husband practices martial arts and has a particular affinity to the legend Bruce Lee. We weren’t overly fond of the name “Bruce” but we wanted to pay homage to this influence in my husband’s life somehow, and I was actually the one to suggest “Lee” as a nice, easy middle name. We feel it sounds really lovely with “Dorian” and we have been calling our baby boy by this name since we found out his gender a few months ago.

There you have it! One of the most important decisions you can make while having a baby came relatively easily to my husband and I, and we are so excited to meet our little Dorian Lee in just over two month’s time.

Do you have any children whose names were inspired by literature or other significant passions in your life? If you’re not a parent yet, have you chosen any baby names and what are they inspired by? I’d love to hear! 🙂

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

A Snorer & A Scorcher ~ Two Reviews of Recent Reads

☼ Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald ☼

This novel really lost momentum for me around the 300-page mark. Prior to that, I was intrigued and interested enough by it, but at that point, my patience started to wane.

I initially would’ve compared this novel to ones like A Prayer for Owen Meany and Middlesex, which have always been among my favourites, but as I kept reading, I realized the main reason why I couldn’t enjoy Fall On Your Knees quite as much was because I didn’t like or feel connected to any of the characters. I don’t mean to say that you always have to like a character to like the book they are a part of, but in this particular case, I strongly dislikedall of the characters and so I found my desire to read about them faded pretty quickly. Whereas in classics like Owen Meany and Middlesex, I felt an immediate connection to Owen, Johnny Wheelwright and Cal Stephanides, in Fall On Your Knees I actually found myself hating almost everyone. James was despicable to me in so many ways, Kathleen was stuck-up and annoying, and Frances and Mercedes had almost no redeeming qualities. The one thing I did appreciate was Materia’s Lebanese heritage because, being half Lebanese myself, it was nice to be able to recognize the different foods she was cooking and some Arabic words here and there. But that wasn’t enough to make me interested in this family and I felt no sympathy for them whatsoever, even though I’m sure I was meant to feel some.

I also feel very similarly about this novel as I did after finishing Love In The Time of Cholera in that I think I would’ve appreciated it much more if I had read it when I was in university. There were undeniably a lot of profound themes and ideas at play in Fall On Your Knees, but I simply wasn’t in the mood to investigate and analyze all of them, and instead would’ve preferred a more classically entertaining plot. This has everything to do with the place I’m at right now in terms of my reading preferences, so I do feel that maybe if I had read this novel a few years ago, at the height of my studies, I might’ve been a lot more impressed by what it had to offer.

I wouldn’t say this was a terrible book by any means because it was very well written, but I grew more and more irritated with it as it went on, and today I woke up just wanting to be done with it. I think the best, most magical books will make a reader never want to stop reading them, and that unfortunately wasn’t something I experienced in this case, as disappointed as that makes me.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

☼ Beautiful Stranger by Christina Lauren ☼

Ah, Christina Lauren at it again, delivering another absolute scorcher! Entertaining, sexy and fun, Beautiful Stranger is the quintessential beach read and perfect for these fiery summer days!

I have to say, I’ve become rather obsessed with the Beautiful Bastard series this year, and I can’t say I’m mad about it. The series has been on my radar for some time, and I especially felt the urge to delve into it last year when I fell in love with the final novel in the collection, simply titled Beautiful. But, for some reason, it took me awhile to actually get to Beautiful Bastard and kick off a proper read of the series – I am sooo glad I did though because it has to be one of the most enjoyable romance series I’ve ever encountered and I am a big fan of Christina Lauren’s style of romance writing.

Beautiful Stranger did not disappoint as the second official book in the series (not including the novella Beautiful Bitch that falls chronologically before it and is also a lot of fun), and I was already a fan of Sara from her appearances in Beautiful Bastard. I’m all for the strong, powerful, driven heroines that Christina Lauren always seems to create, and Sara is no exception to this rule as the head of Finance at Ryan Media Group. She has a good head on her shoulders (even if I was frustrated with some of her philosophies – more on this below) and I could really relate to her as a character. I also quickly became obsessed with Max Stella, the swoon-worthy Brit who acts as this novel’s male lead. Although a bit of a player in the past, Max comes across as charming and endearing and kind from the very start of the novel…I never had any doubts about him or worries for Sara, and I just felt like he was trustworthy and warm and gooey on the inside from the first moment he was introduced. He seems like an all-around genuine character, which is really refreshing for the romance genre, and I was shipping him and Sara without hesitation from the moment they locked eyes on each other.

This leads me to my one main source of frustration with this novel: the main romantic obstacle. The plot of Beautiful Stranger centres around the fact that Sara has recently moved to New York after breaking up with a politician in Chicago who was cheating on her for the entirety of their 6-year relationship (this is something that is alluded to in Beautiful Bastard). Sara is, quite understandably, torn up after this experience and she finds it really hard to trust Max, choosing instead to ask him for a more casual relationship that involves a steamy encounter once a week and nothing more. While I can appreciate Sara’s reluctance to let someone into her heart, I also found myself rolling my eyes slightly at this. I myself am not a big believer in “the rebound”. I first met my husband only 3 or 4 weeks after he had broken up with his ex-girlfriend, and so many people asked me if I was worried about being a rebound. My husband had actually sworn off dating for awhile after ending things with his ex, but for whatever reason, after seeing and chatting with me, he decided to throw that resolution out the window and ask me for my phone number. So, I probably had ample reason to be wary and suspicious, but I just wasn’t. Instead, I decided to go with the flow, see where things took us, and not deny this immediate spark that was set off between us. Now, 5 and a half years later, we are very happily married and expecting our first child, so I cannot be more grateful that my husband decided to enter into a relationship so soon after his last one, and that I myself gave him that chance. I’m not saying that someone in Sara’s position should just rush out to start seriously dating a guy after what she’s endured, but I did find it odd that Sara was so reluctant to even have dinner with Max or communicate with him throughout the week. It all seemed a bit over-the-top to me, but of course, there always has to be some kind of obstacle in these sorts of romance novels, and it didn’t take Sara and Max too long to admit to their true feelings, so I wasn’t overly put off. I was more eager for them to just get over their hang-ups already, because I knew they eventually would anyway.

All in all, Beautiful Stranger was a very pleasurable read and I am so looking forward to continuing with this series as soon as I can get my hands on the next couple books!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: Suffering from Severe Anxiety

Let’s talk…or at least try to…about what it means to have severe anxiety while pregnant.

I desperately want to talk about my struggles with severe anxiety here on this blog, but to be honest, I am afraid to. For the last week I have felt the urge to speak about how challenging the last 6 months have been for me, and although the words flow very easily when I am sitting with my journal open, they don’t at all when I’m attempting to write something meaningful for this public space. Let’s be honest…talking about anxiety does, unfortunately, make people uncomfortable, and I find myself mainly struggling to write openly and honestly about my experiences because I want to shield other people. For some reason, I am most worried about offending people or making them uneasy, which is actually absurd if you think about it because then I am the one left with the weight on my chest. But anxiety is something that, while a very personal and intimate experience, also sometimes involves other people or is caused by external triggers, and these can be harder to speak about out loud.

The fact is, I am scared to delve too deeply into why I have been so anxious during my pregnancy, and that is mainly because my anxiety and its severity have been exacerbated by feelings of intense guilt and shame. Shame about not being strong enough; shame about having no choice but to put myself and my baby first and make tough decisions because of it; guilt about even being pregnant at all because it might not be convenient or preferable for some of the people around me. And maybe speaking in such veiled terms about my feelings is an act of shame as well, but it feels hard to be honest about something I am only just beginning to work through and heal from.

Suffice it to say that, although some days are much happier and brighter and I have come a long way from where I was just 3 months ago, there is not a single day that goes by that I don’t feel at least a few moments of severe anxiety. At the height of my struggles 3 months ago, I was having around 7 panic attacks a day, and now, thankfully, I am down to 1 or 2 a week. But, the process to get there has been slow and arduous, and I know that if I slip up or something drastic happens, I could easily spiral downwards again. If I weren’t pregnant, I probably never would’ve taken the steps to work through my long-standing mental health issues, but honestly, I had no choice because I am not the only one at risk…my defenseless baby is also subjected to my panic attacks, and when my doctors blatantly told me that what I was going through was a huge risk to my unborn child, I had no other option but to react and take precautions immediately. After breaking down in public places with no warning multiple times over the span of a 3 week period, after being rushed by my family to the emergency room because I had back-to-back panic attacks with virtually no time to recover, after enduring some traumatizing and unexpected moments, what else could I do? I had to make changes, and fast, because I truly have never felt more vulnerable or scared for myself (and, consequently, my baby) in my life.

There are so many things I’ve been doing to try to get myself to a better place during this pregnancy, from seeing an expert psychiatrist regularly, to starting meditation practices, to studying the book Mind Over Mood vigilantly, to exercising on a daily basis, and luckily, it seems like a lot of it is working. I went from being unable to eat or sleep (particularly alarming and dangerous while pregnant) to being able to smile in photos, looking forward to being out with my husband, family and friends, and actually enjoying the adventure of pregnancy. But, as I said, this does not mean that my work is done, and I still wake up with feelings of guilt, a tight chest and racing heart almost every morning. There are still triggers in my dreams and in my mind that pop up when I let my guard down and in quiet moments, and I may be working through them for years to come. This fight against anxiety is a journey, a daily battle, but it is one I have no choice but to engage in, for myself and my growing family.

Maybe nothing I’ve said here will make sense to anyone but me…I don’t think that’s the point, though. I have let myself speak, I have given voice to the fact that I am not 100% okay, but I am hoping to get there. And, ultimately, I am pledging each day to be the strongest, best example to my soon-to-be-born son that, yes, anxiety is real, it is physical, it is debilitating at times, but it can be overcome.

From a day when my husband had me laughing!

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: Getting Physical

Let’s talk about how it really feels to be pregnant.

Full disclosure from the beginning: I am not one of those women who enjoys being pregnant. To be honest, I never really thought I would be that type of person anyway, so I’m not surprised or disappointed in the least. Right up until I actually took that pregnancy test (well, actually, I took 4 of them to be sure) and saw that it was positive, I had this vague idea that pregnancy was…well…gross. This is probably more of a normal feeling for a 16 year old to have, so at 27 years old I may not have much of an excuse. I definitely also felt this way in high school though, and it seems that I simply never shook the feeling. I fully appreciate that a lot of women do not feel this way and actually find pregnancy to be a magical and wonderful experience – that is incredible for those women and I wish I could be more like them. But, for me, pregnancy is an experience that is a means to an amazing end, not necessarily something I’m loving.

I should probably explain before I get a bunch of negative comments and hate mail. Being pregnant, my body feels very alien to me. I am sure there are many women out there who feel this same way, and maybe it’s not the smartest thing I’ve ever done to share these sentiments publically on a blog, but I do think there is not enough discussion about how challenging, scary and plainly uncomfortable it can be to be pregnant. There are many bloggers, YouTube vloggers and Instagrammers who are speaking honestly about this nowadays, which I think is great – I just wanted to add my own voice to this conversation and reassure any women who might stumble upon this post during a difficult pregnancy that not loving the 40-week journey isn’t a sin or a crime.

I want to be a mother very much. I wouldn’t be pregnant right now if I didn’t, I can assure you of that. When I was in high school, I envisioned myself with a child in the future; when I met my husband and started dating him, those fantasies became even more real; and when we got married and realized the time to start trying might be near, I could see our family life in my mind so clearly and it made me excited. I am even more excited now that our baby’s room is furnished, now that we know we are having a boy and can call him by name. Having said all that, just because I am excited to be a mother does not mean I relish the idea of carrying another human inside of me. Just because I want to hold my baby in my arms, does not mean that I am overjoyed by the idea of him residing in my stomach at this very moment.

A lot of my feelings stem from the fact that being pregnant is a huge responsibility. This is something that a man cannot ever fully understand (although I am lucky enough to have a husband who is sympathetic to it). Being pregnant, not only does my body feel alien to me in so many ways, it also feels like it is not entirely my own. That’s because it’s not – although my body does still belong to me, for 40 weeks it also belongs to someone else, someone helpless who must be protected and nurtured at all costs. I don’t know many people for whom that would not be a daunting prospect. For example, I have had to change my life in numerous ways to accommodate for the fact that everything my body experiences is being felt by another human as well. I have mentioned previously my struggles with severe anxiety throughout my pregnancy, beginning early in my first trimester, and that is something I’d like to write a specific post about very soon. But apart from that, I have had to make subtle every day changes to make sure my body is the perfect (albeit temporary) home for my baby. I have had to stop running at the gym because the pounding motion was proving to be too much for my now delicate back. Honestly, that’s been a welcome change because it’s been nice to have a break from that particular type of exercise and try some new ones instead. It is an adjustment though, and as I lower my upper and lower body weights each week that I become more pregnant, my husband can still push to his usual limits. I have also had to change some of the things I eat, and the other day when I went to a local bagel shop to grab a whole-wheat bagel with cream cheese, it wasn’t until after I had scarfed it down that I had a moment of panic wondering if the cream cheese was pasteurized. I did my due diligence and called the shop to confirm, but I was reminded of just how careful I have to be about every item I put in my mouth. Then, there was the time I fell going up the stairs at the subway station by my house (I blame my stupid, bulky Converse!). I was pretty sure I hadn’t hit my stomach because I caught myself, but I found my mind racing and second-guessing, so I rushed to the hospital I’ll be delivering at to be checked out. In all these ways, and so many more, it feels not only like I am sharing my body but also like I am having to sacrifice it. Yes, for something miraculous and beautiful and one I would readily make, but a sacrifice nonetheless.

So, my body isn’t fully mine at the moment because I am sharing it with my unborn baby. That’s a hard adjustment, certainly, but one that is necessary and that I could wrap my mind around (even if it still does take me by surprise every time I feel him moving inside me). What’s a bit harder to swallow is the fact that I also feel like my body and my pregnancy experience are being shared with everyone else around me. I don’t mean my husband and my family members and friends, who are naturally going to be excited and involved – I mean the strangers who stare, the distant family friends who want to touch my belly, the random people who think it is okay to say that I “look great” even though they have no idea what I looked like before being pregnant and really shouldn’t be commenting on my appearance at all. When I was in my first trimester, I desperately wanted to start showing because I wanted the people around me to know what I was going through; now, in hindsight, I kind of wish I could keep my bump secret, between only myself and certain people I choose. Pregnancy is a very public experience, but at the same time, it is also extremely intimate and personal. There’s this strange dichotomy in that everyone can see your pregnancy clear as day and can profess an opinion about it (whether negative or excited), but very few people actually have a right to be directly involved in it. Sometimes, more often than not, the stares make me uncomfortable and I am made more anxious by people commenting on my pregnancy than I would be if they just stayed silent. Yes, I am having a baby, with my husband, and while that might be exciting to a whole bunch of other people, it’s actually none of their business in the slightest. Maybe it makes me heartless to speak this way, but I already think about being pregnant pretty much every second of the day, so the last thing I need is some random person wanting to engage in conversation about something my mind is already going over and over constantly.

I should also mention that I am definitely having an off day as I write this. I’m not at my best today, and I’m trying not to be hard on myself for it because my body and mind are going through a lot right now. The plain fact is that every single day of being pregnant is not a happy or a beautiful one – that doesn’t mean that a lot of them aren’t so special, but a lot of them also aren’t and I think that is okay and something that really needs to be acknowledged. At the end of the day, I am very eager to have my baby boy beside me, and the fact that that requires having him within me right now is par for the course. Will I be relieved beyond words when he is out here where I can see him, though? Most definitely!

From a day I felt both beautiful and pregnant.

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

A Room Fit for a Prince

Hi everyone, and happy almost-Friday!

I wanted to come on here today to share a quick post about some recent home developments. Although I am only nearly 27 weeks pregnant, my husband and I have gotten a bit overly excited about our baby boy’s arrival and have already decorated his entire nursery. It took us about one full weekend to do, and it isn’t a huge room at all, but we were just so excited about getting the pieces and décor together that we simply couldn’t wait. I wanted to share some photos with all of you because, of course, there is a bit of a literary theme to the decoration style. I also do have a sneaky clue to the name we have chosen for our baby boy (which I will write a proper post announcing soon).

First off, we painted this design on the wall above our baby’s crib. If you’ve read my post about the first tattoo I got, you’ll probably recognize this crown. My husband and I have a matching tattoo of half of a king’s crown beside half of a queen’s crown, and the image is also painted on the wall of our bedroom in rose gold. We knew when we got the tattoo that we wanted to add a smaller crown beneath it (we even left room for it, as we’ve collected other tattoos since) to represent our baby, the king’s crown if we were to have a boy and the queen’s if we were to have a girl. Since we now know we’re having a boy, we decided to paint the design for our next tattoo onto his wall, and we have decided to stick mainly with black and white décor because my husband studied in his psychology degree that babies can only see in black and white when they are first born and find high contrast of this kind very visually stimulating. The empty frame that surrounds the crown is an allusion to the source for our baby boy’s first name, and the designs around it are there to provide more contrast to engage him when he’s lying in his crib.

This is a photo of the crib and bedding we chose, again in our chosen colours of black and white. My husband and I are not really huge fans of blue generally and we wanted to steer clear of bedroom décor that had sports or animals or anything stereotypically boyish on it, so we thought this more neutral bedding was perfect. You’ll also see in this photo the room in its entirety, with a clothes rack for my maternity clothes and for the baby’s more visually appealing clothes that we’d like to display. We’ve also chosen to leave one of my bookshelves in the baby’s room because we have both read how important it is for infants to be surrounded by books, even if they are adult books, because it encourages them to become interested in reading in the future.

This final picture is a closer look at the change table we chose, which matches the crib. It also shows some of the artwork we have decided to leave in the room. Although we know Bruce Springsteen, The Phantom of the Opera and Jane Eyre might not be totally appealing to our infant son, we did feel it was important for him to be somewhat surrounded by things that are interesting and significant to us, so that our influence is always present and so that he can, once again, become curious about the passions we’re eager to share with him from a young age.

As you can see, we got a bit carried away, but seeing all of these items every time we pass the room has made us ten times more excited for our baby’s arrival, since it is finally starting to feel real!

What do you think of his room? As promised, here’s one final picture with a little sneak peek at one of the names we’ve chosen for him.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

A Busy Day of Reading and Watching ~ New Recommendations!

I had a lovely day today, finishing up a novel I started just a few days ago, as well as getting through two TV shows I began earlier in the week. I couldn’t help but jot down my thoughts about them, so have a read if you’re looking for some new TV show recommendations in particular.

Kiss Collector by Wendy Higgins

This song relates perfectly to this YA novel…

Kissing Strangers by DNCE
“Ooh
Can’t quit, take sips
Wanna taste you
Ooh
Make wish, use lips
Kissing strangers (huhhh)
Na na na na na na na na
Till I find someone I love
Na na na na na na na na
Kissing strangers (huhhh)
Na na na na na na na na
Till I find someone I trust
Na na na na na na na na
Kissing strangers (huhhh)”

Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzZWXrlDj-A

Also, it’s an extremely catchy and fun song, so I recommend giving it a listen if you’re unfamiliar with it and are planning to read this book.

Kiss Collector by Wendy Higgins was a cute book, but it wasn’t anything to write home about, in my opinion. I liked Zae well enough as a narrator (even if I did not understand her name in the slightest!), and her relationship with her three best friends was pretty endearing, but I think the novel took wayyy too long to get going and a lot of the light-heartedness was muddled by serious family drama that seemed a touch out of place at times. While this could’ve been the perfect beach/summer read, the fact that Higgins attempted to tackle big topics like infidelity and divorce while still simultaneously offering easy fun made it kind of hard to get a grip on the story. I also felt that Zae’s perspective that she and her friends should “use” guys for the entirety of Spring Break was quite flawed, and it was then hard for me to wrap my mind around Zae’s decisions about college and studying abroad only pages later. I think the novel was trying to do a bit too much in too short a time, and considering that the kiss collecting competition didn’t even get going until about a third into it and is then kind of abruptly dropped toward the end and not really concluded or addressed again, I didn’t feel like there was enough time to explore any one plot direction thoroughly enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I was entertained by this novel, but again, it somehow lacked something for me that I just can’t put my finger on. I would recommend this as a quick read if you’re spending the day by the water with friends or taking a plane or train journey somewhere, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect too much from it.

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

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Doctor Thorne

God bless a wholesome Victorian story where all ends in happiness!

I decided to sit down and watch Doctor Thorne over the last few days after having it recommended to me by a friend a few years ago. Let’s be honest, the premise is exactly everything I always love and I was itching to get into a Victorian story again. This adaptation of one of Anthony Trollope’s 19th century novels was written by Julian Fellowes, who is apparently the writer of Downton Abbey which I have never watched but have been told by 2.5 million people that I NEED to see because I would ADORE it. I don’t know that the writing of Doctor Thorne was exceptional because I have to assume that most of it came straight out of Trollope’s novel, but I’m a fan of Victorian dialogue in general and there were more than a few “Hell yeah!” moments (mostly when Doctor Thorne himself was fighting with someone) so I have to assume that Downton Abbey is also full of great dialogue.

All in all, I would say that Doctor Thorne was a bit more boring than I would have liked, and it’s not at all on the same level as miniseries adaptations like Jane Eyre and North and South. However, it was still quite entertaining with characters I found to be more interesting and engaging than expected (I’m particularly thinking of the older ladies who are extremely and delightfully catty!) and I would describe it as a pleasure to watch. It also did make me violently emotional at times, specifically when I wanted to slap Lady Arabella and Lady de Courcy in the face for how they were treating Mary Thorne and Frank, and when I found myself vehemently wishing that someone would just kill Sir Louis already because he was the biggest douchebag I have ever encountered in a Victorian story! I even had some laugh-out-loud moments, as when Doctor Thorne stands up to the aristocrats around him and isn’t afraid to deliver some blunt and hard truths, even to people he should, from a societal perspective, be careful around. (Sidenote: Tom Hollander was excellent in this, and although it is still hard for me not to envision him as Mr. Collins after his exceptional portrayal of that character in Pride & Prejudice, I was definitely endeared to him here.) Stefanie Martini was a perfect female lead as Mary Thorne and she actually reminded me in a lot of ways of Ruth Wilson in Jane Eyre, who I’m sure we can all agree is an absolute QUEEN! I think Martini should be in a ton more period dramas, if she hasn’t been already.

To sum all this up, if you like period dramas, Doctor Thorne is certainly worth a watch – I suggest making yourself a hot cuppa and getting to it on a rainy day in!

***********

Fleabag

Okay, Doctor Thorne was always going to be overshadowed by this FREAKING BRILLIANT (!!!) show. I loved absolutely EVERYTHING about Fleabag, starting from episode one, and although I don’t know very much about Phoebe Waller-Bridge, I am convinced that my destiny is for her to adopt me and teach me the art of being truly witty, sarcastic, and badass! She is an utter powerhouse and I bow down to her! #queenstatus

Fleabag is probably one of the best shows I’ve watched recently. The truth is, I don’t watch much television generally because if a show doesn’t engage me within one or two episodes, I will throw in the towel without hesitation. So, if I’m watching a show and flying through it in its entirety in less than a week, you know it has to be good. Well, suffice it to say that Fleabag is hilarious, VERY entertaining, poignant, profound, heart wrenching, over-the-top, endearing, and easily one of the best shows of our time. The topics it tackles, from infidelity to cancer to suicide (to name only a few), are all completely on point and thoroughly contemporary, and every plotline is cleverly written, in an engaging and entertaining style.

The acting on this show is also FREAKING INCREDIBLE!!! Seriously, this show has some next level performances, not only from Waller-Bridge herself whose interaction with the audience is both moving and comical, but also from standouts like Olivia Colman who gives an utter knockout performance. Olivia Colman may well be one of the most talented actresses because she has such range (Don’t get me ranting on how epic she is in Broadchurch!), and I haven’t seen The Favourite but I’m convinced she deserved that Oscar because the woman can do no wrong and I never realized what incredible comedic timing she has. Season 1 of Fleabag is good, but season 2 is absolutely phenomenal, and Andrew Scott is a perfect addition as Hot Priest. His chemistry with Fleabag literally gave me chills because he comes across as oh so charming – literal proof that he is an amazing actor because he was creepy as hell as Moriarty in Sherlock, but there is none of that leftover in this character.

My personal favourite character, though, is Claire. She reminds me a bit of myself in some ways (My husband agrees with this – should I be worried?), but what mainly made her appealing to me as a character is that she is so complex and complicated. Her emotions are articulated with such subtle nuance, and it broke my heart at times and made me burst out laughing at others. Her chemistry with her sister Fleabag is probably the best thing about the show…and that is saying A LOT!

Fleabag is an ABSOLUTE MUST WATCH!!! Honestly, if you haven’t watched it already, what the **** have you been doing?! It’s totally bingeable and will have you rethinking so many things about life, love and family. 1000/10!!!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart